The OXCART LIBRARY is a collection of books housed, since 1927, at the NORTH OLMSTED branch of the Cuyahoga County Library. Consisting of 166 volumes, mostly on subjects relating to theology, travel and farming, it includes the remnant of a 500 volume collection, each volume carefully wrapped in oilcloth, that, in 1829, had been transported 600 miles from New Haven, Connecticut to OLMSTED TOWNSHIP in a cart pulled by a team of oxen. The original collection was given to the township by Yale University Professor Charles Hyde Olmsted on the condition that it change its name from Lenox Twp., which it had been named in 1823, to Olmsted Twp. in honor of his late father, Captain Aaron Olmsted (1753-1806). Captain Olmsted, whose last name has sometimes erroneously been spelled "Olmstead," was one of the original investors in the CONNECTICUT LAND CO. formed in 1795. He had secured an option to purchase over 14,000 acres of land in the township originally known simply as "Township 6, Range 15," but had died before he could complete the purchase, his option passing to his heirs.
The Oxcart Library is considered to be, according to several sources, the first circulating public library in the WESTERN RESERVE. According to local North Olmsted historian Luther Paddock, who conducted research for the city's sesquicentennial celebration in 1965, the library was at first "boarded" in houses in the township, with books being lent out to residents from time to time on an informal basis. In 1847, Olmsted Township's board of trustees organized the Olmsted Library Co., which then more formally managed the collection for the next two decades. Annually, the board appointed resident librarians who maintained the books in their homes and kept written records of what was borrowed and returned. Over the years, the collection became reduced in size, in large part as the result of patrons neglecting to return books. In 1868, the Olmsted Library Co. ceased its operations, because the remaining books in its possession were, in the words of the trustees, "useless." The last resident librarian appointed was John D. Taylor.
In 1876, Ellen Bramley, who had purchased John D. Taylor's house, which was located on the corner of Dover Center and Butternut Ridge Rds. in what is today the City of North Olmsted, found 49 books in the attic and returned them to Taylor, who in turn gave them to Arthur A. Stearns, a grandson of David Johnson Stearns, considered to be North Olmsted's first settler and one of the original Olmsted Twp. Trustees. Stearns, an attorney who later became President of the Board of Trustees of CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY, kept the books for decades in the attic of his house. In 1927, while he was serving as Vice-President of the Board, Stearns donated these books, and several more from the original collection which had been recently found, to the Cleveland Public Library, which arranged for them to be sent to the new North Olmsted branch of the Library's County Department (today, the CUYAHOGA COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY). Over the years, additional volumes from the original collection have been recovered and "returned" to the "Oxcart Library," as the collection became known in circa 1950. Of particular note, in 1961, North Olmsted Librarian Ruth Helt reached out publicly to the North Olmsted community to look for and return books from the original collection. As a result of her efforts, a large number of books, which had been lying in attics, old barns, and elsewhere in North Olmsted, were found and returned, increasing the number of volumes in the Oxcart Library to its present size